Northumberland has reacted with rage and devastation at the loss of one of its most iconic landmarks.
The beloved tree at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall was felled overnight on Wednesday. Northumberland National Park has said they have reason to believe it was done “deliberately and illegally”.
The spot was made famous by the 1991 cult classic Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, where the titular character, played by Kevin Costner, along with Morgan Freeman’s character Azeem take refuge in its boughs. It has long been a popular spot with tourists walking the Roman Wall.
The leader of Northumberland County Council, Coun Glen Sanderson, said he hoped the people who were responsible would be “severely punished”.
He said: “I can hardly believe that anybody, no matter who sick they might be, could do this. It has come as a huge shock to me and a huge shock to people across the world, not just in the North East.
“It is the most unbelievable and appalling act that anybody could even think about doing. The police are investigating and I hope, if we find the person, they are punished severely for this act of wanton nastiness.
“It is an icon for Northumberland and the whole of the country. It is one of the most iconic places, because it is so beautiful and so peaceful.”
Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, also spoke of her anger and said officers were already on the scene.
She said: “I’m devastated that the famous Sycamore is gone. That tree was ours. It was an iconic North East landmark standing tall in our beautiful Northumberland.
“I am incandescent that this looks like a deliberate act of vandalism. I’ll be raising this personally today.
“I know Northumbria Police are at the scene and officers will do their utmost to catch whoever is behind this. It is terrible news.”
Local reaction close to Sycamore Gap itself has been even more pronounced. Coun Ian Hutchinson, who represents the Haltwhistle ward on Northumberland, spoke of his outrage at the news.
He said: “This is an act of malicious vandalism. I hope they find the person responsible.
“It is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the county. It is an iconic part of Northumberland. I was speaking to some Japanese tourists in London, and when I told them I was from Northumberland the first thing they mentioned was Sycamore Gap.
“Why the hell do people have to do things like that? It beggars belief.”
And Coun Alan Sharp, who is the county councillor for the Haydon and Hadrian ward and chairman of Haltwhistle Town Council, added: “I am devastated to hear the news. The sycamore tree is a historic link for a lot of people.
“So much of the Hadrian’s Wall history is linked to the tree. A lot of people relate Hadrian’s Wall to the tree.
“The loss of a very historic part of the wall is a great loss for everyone, including the tourism industry. It is devastating news for such a malicious act to take place.
“We need to investigate – I’m so upset about it. It’s so iconic, it is such an important part of the wall for walkers. Residents will be very upset.”
Elsewhere, Tim Wickens of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society urged anyone with information to contact the authorities.
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He said: “I’m truly tearful having just seen the images and reporting on the world-famous tree at Sycamore gap on Hadrian’s Wall apparently being deliberately felled last night.
“If it transpires this was a deliberate act this really is an outrageous and despicable act of vandalism that will shock people everywhere. It is beyond belief that anyone would consciously seek to destroy such a timeless symbol of the North East’s natural beauty and an icon of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
“I would urge anyone with useful information to contact the police immediately to help them find those responsible for this awful crime.”